A senior Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) member, released from prison last year, will join pro-democracy demonstrations in Washington this weekend and discuss his detainment at the hands of the Cambodian government with U.S. lawmakers, he told RFA’s Khmer Service on Friday.
The former political prisoner, Meach Sovannara, who holds dual Cambodian and U.S. citizenship, will meet with congressmen Ted Yoho (R-MN), Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) to discuss his experience of being a political prisoner on two occasions, detained for a cumulative period of about four years.
In his most recent detention, Sovannara along with 11 others had been incarcerated since 2014 for their alleged role in a July 15, 2014 demonstration held by the CNRP against government manipulation of the general election a year earlier.
They received sentences of from seven to 20 years in prison but were released in August 2018 under a royal pardon.
Sovannara said that his detention affected him both “financially and mentally.”
“I want to request that [the congressmen introduce legislation to] intervene to normalize democracy in Cambodia because it is narrowing down,” he said in an interview with RFA in Washington.
“Cambodia is now not a multi-party state. It is a one-party state, and that’s dangerous for Cambodia,” he said.
“I have already stressed my stance: that I will die with the CNRP,” he said.
He said that he will join with other party members in protests on Saturday aimed at restoring Cambodian democracy.
“All the people can participate in the fight for democracy; we want democracy to survive,” he said.
“The current government in Cambodia regards the voters as their slaves,” he said, adding, “We want a collective voice.”
“If the current leaders say that they are good leaders, they must release Kem Sokha,” he said.
CNRP President Kem Sokha has been under house arrest since September 2017 facing charges of treason.
Sovannara added that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) dissolved the CNRP in Nov. 2017, fearing they would lose [in the 2018 general] election.
In the July election, the CPP captured all 125 seats in Cambodia’s National Assembly, with only token opposition from minor political parties.
Reported by Huot Vuthy for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.